COVID-19: ‘Nobody expected me to live,’ says coma mother returning home after year in hospital

A mother who fell extremely ill with COVID-19 while pregnant and spent nearly four months in a medically induced coma has returned home to her baby daughter after more than a year in hospital.

Speaking about her ordeal, much of it spent on a life support machine, Nicoleta Tuna revealed how nobody had expected her to survive.

The 30-year-old Romanian spent so long in hospital she learned to speak English while on the ward and now counts staff as her "second family".

Ms Tuna, from Colchester in Essex, was 36 weeks pregnant and unvaccinated when she caught coronavirus in October 2021.

Her condition deteriorated rapidly and she was admitted to Colchester Hospital where her daughter Thea was delivered by emergency Caesarean.

She was then placed in a medically induced coma and in November 2021 was transferred to Royal Papworth Hospital, a specialist heart and lung hospital in Cambridge, for advanced care.

Ms Tuna spent 299 days on a specialist intensive care life support machine which pumps oxygen into a patient's blood, allowing the lungs to rest.

She was woken from her coma in February 2022, by which point Thea was nearly four months old.

Ms Tuna was finally discharged from hospital on Thursday to applause by dozens of NHS staff who cared for her.

She was joined by her husband Mike, six-year-old son Eduard and daughter Thea, now aged one.

Ms Tuna said: "After the C-section I remember nothing.

"I woke up and was being nursed by a Romanian healthcare support worker, and she spoke to me.

"I asked her 'what day is it' and she said '22 February 2022'.

"I couldn't believe it, it was too much.

"I was told my chances of survival were very small - nobody expected me to live.

"I was so, so poorly."

When Thea was six months old, Ms Tuna was strong enough to be able to hold her daughter for the first time.

She remained on life support until 31 August, and in September was slowly taken off the ventilator and moved onto a high flow form of oxygen, which she will continue to use at home.

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Ms Tuna said: "It has been very difficult as I have not been able to spend time with my daughter or my six-year-old son, but I can now spend the rest of my life with them and my husband thanks to all of the people at Royal Papworth.

"I didn't speak any English when I was first admitted, but all of the staff here have helped me in many ways including helping me with my English as well as throwing a (first birthday) party for Thea which was just amazing.

"While I was in critical care, the staff wrote well wishes in a notebook for me which I will treasure forever.

"They have all written beautiful words. They are now my second family.

"My wish is to live with my kids and see them grow up, something I didn't think I would get the chance to do."